In a time capsule interview with a young Matt Lauer, Don Knotts and Andy Griffith sat down and talked about some of their favorite memories from The Andy Griffith Show. And Andy told Lauer about an episode where Barney channeled Frank Sinatra.
In 1996, Lauer spoke with Knotts and Griffith on The Today Show. And Lauer wanted the guys to describe each other’s characters. Knotts said that Andy Taylor was a hardworking and reliable person who “Barney depended on a great deal, though he never, never owned up to it.”
And Andy Griffith remembered Barney Fife as a “fine comedic character.” Then, with a chuckle, he began to tell Lauer about one of his favorite episodes titled Barney in the Choir. During the show, the fine people of Mayberry had formed a choir group, and they planned on putting on a big performance.
Sherrif Taylor Tricked Barney Fife During a Mayberry Choir Show on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
“Barney sang off-key, though he didn’t know it,” Andy Griffith told Matt Lauer. “And we tried to find other places to rehearse so he wouldn’t be there. And he’d show up, and so finally I said ‘make him the soloist,’ and then I talked him into speaking his solo swiftly.”
While practicing one day, Barney began doing as Andy instructed. He boisterously recited the lyrics to Welcome Sweet Springtime.
But once Barney got into the rhythm, he couldn’t help himself. He started belting the lyrics in song. And when Andy tried correcting Barney, Barney said, “Oh, it’s no use, Andy. Can you tell a bird to talk? And can you tell a bird to just go, ‘chirp chirp chirp’? No, Andy. I’m like a bird. I was born to sing.”
Then Andy Taylor hatched another plan. He convinced his unwitting deputy to lip-sync the song.
“And so finally,” Griffith said. “I talked him into believing that the microphone was so, so hot—so sensitive—that he didn’t need to hardly make any sound at all. [Then] finally, no sound.”
For the big night, Andy had hired a professional singer to lend his vocals to Barney’s solo on the sly. But Barney thought the beautiful sound was coming from his own mouth. So during the concert, he smiled with pride as he performed.
“And when it came time for his solo, we put a man behind a curtain with a microphone,” Griffith laughed. “And when Barney heard that voice, he became Frank Sinatra. It was wonderful.”
At the end of the story, Andy Griffith told Lauer that he loved playing “the straight man” on The Andy Griffith Show.
“I got to be in the show, and I had the best seat in the house at the same time,” he said with a warm smile. “I played straight to all these fine comedic characters that we had. And I loved it.”